“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.” – Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali’s family claimed some Native American heritage, though as we know in history, ancestry often gets lost. What we do know was Ali had an Irish great grandfather who came to the southern United States and married a woman who was described as Moorish.That description could possibly mean she had mixed Native American ancestry.
Ali’s family history also states his ancestors were slaves in the pre-Civil War era and the name Clay was prominent in Louisville. Ali was named after a prominent white abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, who fought and killed some of his slave-owning opponents.
Ali says in his biography, The Greatest, that if his family had any relation to the Kentucky political family of Henry Clay, statesman, orator, politician and brother to Cassius, it was as “slaves who were raped as property.”
The Clay family owned slaves and released them before and after the Civil War. What Ali was trying to expound was the published theory, that as far as “society” was concerned, any good that blacks accomplished could be accounted for by tracing back to “white blood.”
Muhammad Ali did foolish things due to his youthful, naïve nature and the demands of celebrity. His first trip to Africa contained highlights and lowlights. Ali’s indoctrination into the Nation of Islam and its self-professed prophet, Elijah Muhammad, would cloud his judgment. Not long after joining the Nation of Islam and accepting Elijah Muhammad as a teacher, he turned his back on his friend Malcolm X for his “betrayal” to the Nation and Elijah.
Ali later said that his betrayal of Malcolm X was a mistake he regretted most of his life. Ali was badly advised by Elijah Muhammad, and after “the Prophet” passed, Ali converted to the Sunni version of Islam and preached peace and tolerance as he understood those to be the basic tenets of Islam. Muslims throughout the world admire him for standing up for his beliefs, for being a people’s champion and for being an ambassador for peace, love and understanding.
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